In a season that was being characterized as a rebuilding year, the South Pasadena High School wrestling team still managed to place five boys into the CIF playoffs, an accomplishment that was duly noted by the coach.
“Yes, it is satisfying that they are in the playoffs,” coach Al Shuton said during a recent telephone interview. “I’m also sending girls to qualify.”
Shuton has said from the beginning that this season was going to be a rebuilding one because they lost wrestlers through graduation and attrition.
Moreover, the team did not fill out all the weight categories and that put them behind by 18 points before any match even started. The Tigers were in next to last place in the Rio Hondo League standings.
However, the Tigers till managed to put five individuals into the CIF postseason and Shuton said he was going to be grateful if he placed just one.
The wrestlers had to place in the top three of league in their weight class to move ahead.
The five boys that have qualified are Christopher Kim, 132 pounds, junior, third place; Devin Peries, 152, sophomore, second place; Andrew Wilbur, 170, senior, third place; Joseph Hutchinson, 220, sophomore, third place; and Sean Griffin, senior, heavyweight, second place.
Furthermore, Shuton is confident that his girl wrestlers can hold their own and he’s sending them into the postseason to see if they can qualify.
‘My girls are aggressive and good,” he said. “I’m sending them because they deserve it.”
The girls moving ahead are Akira Bua, 101 pounds; Emily Wei, 106; Lauren Lopez, 111; Sarah Uwabo, 121; and Roxanne Lynch.
Shuton, who’s been leading the Tigers wrestling team for the past two decades, is not surprised by his team’s excellent season but acknowledged that it was going to be tough year in an earlier interview.
“This year is going to be tough as far as the desired overall outcome is going to be,” Shuton said before the Tigers took on Monrovia in the first league match back in mid-January. “We have a few issues. I don’t have a full team. I haven’t had a full team in a couple years. That’s one issue. The other thing is I have a lot of new kids. It’s one of those years where we will be rebuilding. It’s going to be the next couple years where we are trying to build the team back up to what we had before.”
Shuton also said he’s not surprised by the current need to rebuild because the program had a long string of successes a few years ago and through graduations and attrition, it was bound to happen this year.
Shuton’s goal for the year was simple: He wanted to see at least one of his wrestlers make into the CIF postseason. Well, that happened and then some.
Assistant coach Victor Gonzalez said Shuton’s assessment was right on point, saying this year was expected to “definitely” be a rebuilding year.
“Our squad is very young,” Gonzalez said before the first league match with Monrovia, which they lost, 42-30. “We have a lot of freshmen, so we are starting to rebuild our team from last year because last year we had a lot of seniors graduate.”
Gonzalez also said the team should be more competitive in about a year or two.
“We hope within the next year or year-and-a-half, that they are able to get to the point where they will be very competitive,” Gonzalez said.
Although the coaching staff is grateful for the showing of the team this year, maybe it is ahead of schedule when it comes to rebuilding, they look at success on many different levels.
“Wrestling is a really tough sport,” Shuton said earlier. “But I love it. I love the sport. This is my alma mater. This is where I went to school. This is where I wrestled. I had a wonderful experience over the four years that I wrestled. I want these kids to experience the same thing. Even if it’s a small group. I don’t care if I have three kids here and this is our team. I’ll wrestle those three kids and coach those three kids. I’ll train them as hard as I can. And we’ve got staff to back them up, help them out with whatever. It’s not just about winning. If you’ve gone through wrestling and you’ve been with us for several years, anything that comes toward you, you’ll be fine because this is so tough. It’s not just the physical aspect of it, it’s the mental aspect of it. If you can handle this on a regular basis life is going to be all that much easier for you in the long run. I don’t measure success by how many matches I win, I basically measure my success by how well our kids turn out as people.”